A queer Chinese American artist reflects on her complicated upbringing and coming of age. After spending her early years in Wuhan, China, Laura immigrates to overwhelmingly white Texas before landing in more diverse circumstances in college on the East Coast and, after college, on the West Coast. But when COVID-19 makes Wuhan a household name, Gao finds herself once again thrown into the role of outsider—even in liberal San Francisco.
The story in these pages is...messy, jumping around from family scenes to those in church to video game characters taking over the narrative. The effect is a rich texture of Gao’s interests and experiences, plunging the reader headlong into her world. Gao’s voice is honest and direct ... direct honesty gives the book its strength. Gao doesn’t whitewash her story at all. Instead she brings us along as she grows, learns to appreciate her strong roots, reconnect with her family, and explore the person she’s becoming ... The roots are messy indeed, but the tree blossoming from them is brilliant.
... poignant ... Her voice is grounded yet humorous; she illustrates a more nuanced Wuhan than the one depicted in current media, while conveying the difficulty of being a part of American society yet never feeling truly at home. Underpinning her external struggles is Gao's deeper understanding of herself as she reckons with her sexual identity, eventually coming out as queer. Depicting her hometown in thick, organic brushstrokes and a warm palette, she evokes a sense of peace and beauty and a longing to return to her origins ... A tender story of self-acceptance that lifts the story of Wuhan beyond COVID and shines light on a region with a rich culture and history.
In this beautifully illustrated graphic memoir, debut author/artist Gao does an excellent job of representing the complexity and challenges that came with growing up as young Chinese immigrant in a small, predominately white town in Texas ... Beyond Gao’s circumstances as an immigrant, her depiction of her experiences as an athlete, daughter, sister, and a young woman wrestling with her identity and sexuality will resonate with a wide range of young adult readers. Overall, this heartfelt and relatable graphic memoir will appeal to readers interested in learning about just how messy and complex life can be for young immigrants growing up in the U.S.